Halliburton Rape Claim Goes to Court
A Houston woman who says she was gang raped by co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad won a major court battle late Friday when a Texas judge ordered that she can bring her case to court instead of forcing her into secretive arbitration proceedings with Halliburton and KBR.She told her full story in 2005 in an ABC News report.
"We are ecstatic that [District Judge Keith Ellison] had the courage to uphold justice in this case," Jamie Leigh Jones' attorney Todd Kelly said after the decision.
Jones says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
Every time I hear this story, I get enraged on a number of levels.
First, NO ONE seriously believes this didn't happen. Any program for women veterans, includes focus on "Military Sexual Trauma."
Roughly one-third of female veterans who have sought counseling at the VA report having been the victim of rape or attempted rape during their service.Senator Lisa Murkowski is even one of seven sponsors for a Health Care Improvement Act for Women Veterans which includes care for victims of "MST":
The health care improvement act would require that the VA implement a program to train educate and certify VA mental health professionals to care for women with MST and post-traumatic stress disorder using evidence-based treatments. It also requires a full-time women veterans program managed at all VA medical centers.As bad as the treatment is for Women Veterans, contractors are treated like the stuff scraped off the bottom of their boots. This was demonstrated when the Department of Justice refused to send a representative to the Congressional hearings resulting from Ms. Jones' story.
The big paychecks the contractors get seem to be in exchange for the total lack of any basic human rights afforded to them in a foreign country. This is thanks on one hand to the immunity from prosecution contractors have so far enjoyed in Iraq and on the other hand to the movement to make corporations immune from civil liability suits through a little thing called tort reform.
Events in a federal district court in Texas last month should have provoked outrage across the country -- legal, judicial and moral outrage. A young American woman already denied the right to criminal justice in Iraq was insulted for a second time when a judge denied her the right to sue for civil relief in a U.S. court.There's a reason the neo-cons are happy to partner with contractors for many of the Iraq Occupation duties...they have no recourse to abuse. Estimates are that U.S. non-military personnel now outnumber the soldiers.
What was the reason? There was a binding arbitration clause in her employment contract. The judge said: "Sadly, sexual harassment, up to and including sexual assault, is a reality in today's workplace." He then sent the case to binding arbitration as requested by Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, snuffing out the civil case of their employee, a mother of five who had filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and assault by co-workers while on the job in Iraq.
This is why the decision in this most recent case is such a big deal. Halliburton had to assume the judge would rule the same way in this case - that Jamie Lee Jones would get binding arbitration as well. That's the ONLY explanation for the unreal statement they sent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
KBR said that after a medical examination, the woman was "taken to a secure unlisted living container where she could rest." It is hard to imagine any greater trauma to an already traumatized and injured rape victim than terrifying and forcible isolation immediately after the violent event. Adding insult to injury, the rape kit used by a military doctor in examining the victim was reportedly handed over to Halliburton/KBR, and doctor's notes and photos of her bruises are missing.
Legal eagles will be following this case closely while most of the MSM will probably continue to ignore it.
On a "silver lining" note, Jones started the "Jamie Leigh Foundation" which "is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping United States citizens and legal residents who are victims of crime while working abroad for government contractors and subcontractors. We demand government contract corporations and government entities to act responsibly, and be held accountable to provide a work environment free of sexual harassment, and limit the potential for abuse."
I fervently hope that she succeeds.